KHOST - Around 50 people were killed and 60 others wounded when a suicide blast ripped through crowds gathered to watch a volleyball game in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, officials said.

"The suicide attacker was on a motorcycle, he detonated himself in the middle of a volleyball match," Attaullah Fazli, deputy governor of Paktika province, told AFP.

"A lot of people including some provincial officials and the police chief were there. About 50 people have been killed, and 60 injured, a lot of them seriously."

The attack was in Yahya Khail district of Paktika, a volatile province bordering Pakistan. President Ashraf Ghani, who came to power in September, swiftly condemned the attack, according to his spokesman. There was no immediate response from the Taliban insurgents, who are responsible for many of the attacks across Afghanistan.

Paktika was also struck by a massive suicide blast in July, when a bomber driving a truck packed with explosives killed at least 41 people at a busy market in Urgun district.

Sunday's attack occurred on the same day that Afghanistan's lower house of parliament approved agreements to allow about 12,500 NATO-led troops to stay on next year as the national army and police struggle to hold back the Taliban.

The lower house of parliament on Sunday approved agreements that will allow about 12,500 NATO-led troops to stay on next year as the national army and police struggle to hold back the Taliban.

US-led NATO combat operations will finish at the end of this year, but the Taliban have launched a series of recent offensives that have severely tested Afghan soldiers and police.

The new NATO mission - named Resolute Support - will focus on supporting the Afghan forces, in parallel with US counter-terrorism operations.

The Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States, and a similar pact with NATO, were the source of huge friction between the Afghan government and its allies under previous president Hamid Karzai.

But Ashraf Ghani, who became president in September, reset ties by signing the long-awaited deals on his first day in power.

Ghani welcomed lawmakers' overwhelming vote in favour of the two agreements on Sunday and said he awaited the prompt approval of the upper house.

"It is a good step in strengthening Afghanistan's national sovereignty," Ghani said in a statement.

"The Afghan security forces will be in charge of full security of their country, and will be further equipped and strengthened."

Karzai's refusal to sign the security accord came to symbolise the breakdown of Afghan-US relations after the optimism of 2001, when the Taliban regime was ousted from power with US assistance.

On Friday the New York Times reported that President Barack Obama had extended the remit of those US troops set to remain in Afghanistan next year.

They will be able to carry out missions against the Taliban and other groups that threaten them, the paper said.

The new order also allows air support - from US jets, bombers and drones - for Afghan combat missions.


APP adds: President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Sunday strongly condemned a bomb blast that took place in Paktika province of Afghanistan and expressed sorrow over the loss of precious lives.

The president and the prime minister sympathised with the government and people of Afghanistan over the sad incident.

They said the government and people of Pakistan stood with Afghans in the hour of distress.

They said that terrorism was the common enemy of both Pakistan and Afghanistan and the two countries would have to tackle the menace jointly.